St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is delighted to be taking part in a pioneering ‘buddy scheme’ to help some NHS trusts in England to improve cancer patients’ experience of care.

St George’s was identified by the recent Cancer Patient Experience Survey (CPES) as being one of the most highly rated by patients. This puts us in a position to mentor another trust, showing them what we do so to help them improve their patients’ experience of care.

The buddy scheme is being run by NHS Improving Quality, the national NHS improvement organisation. The aim of the scheme is to spread and accelerate innovative practice via peer to peer support and learning. It is hoped this will lead to a reduction in national variation in cancer patients’ experiences of care. All the trusts involved have volunteered to take part in the improvement programme.

We are now beginning to work with our buddy trust, with support from NHS Improving Quality, to develop improvement plans specific to their individual needs. These plans will be implemented between February and July 2015.

At the end of the scheme, NHS Improving Quality will carry out an evaluation to measure the impact of the improvement plans, and a report will be published by the end of 2015.

Trish Hughes, Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse at St George’s said, “We’re really pleased to be part of this important project. We have a lot of respect for our buddy trust for taking part in the scheme too. It shows a real commitment to improving patients’ experience of care to take part. We’re looking forward to sharing some of the work we’ve done at St George’s and supporting them to try out new ways of working. I’m sure both sides will learn a lot from this experience.”

Jane Whittome, Head of NHS Improving Quality’s Experience of Care programme said, “All the trusts taking part in the buddy scheme – on both sides – are demonstrating an outstanding commitment to improving cancer patients’ experience of care. They clearly recognise the opportunity to work with peers in order to share learning join a learning community in order to implement change and spread innovative practice. This pioneering buddy scheme that we’re launching today will see trusts benefit from the experience of those trusts that were identified by cancer patients as offering the best experience of care. It is important that where we know we can improve NHS services, we do everything we can to help organisations to make that happen in a supportive, not punitive, way. This scheme is another great example of NHS Improving Quality’s practical on-the-ground improvement projects. I’m looking forward to evaluating the impact of the programme later this year.”

Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer for NHS England said, “The latest survey results showed that overall cancer patients’ experience of care was improving, but there was still more that could be done in some areas. At a time when the NHS is treating more patients for cancer than ever before, we want to be sure everyone is getting the best possible treatment wherever they live. This scheme is a great example of how we can take the results of an important survey and use them to drive swift action to improve patient care.”

Neil Churchill, Director of Patient Experience at NHS England said, “The Cancer Patient Experience Survey is an important measure of how patients feel about the care they’ve received. We said we would ensure that improvement work was supported over the coming year, by spreading good practice across hospitals providing cancer care. The NHS Improving Quality buddy scheme does just that by helping to share innovative practice.”

Jagtar Dhanda, Head of Inclusion at Macmillan Cancer Support said, “Every single patient should be treated with the highest levels of dignity, respect and compassion, but sadly this doesn’t always happen. Whilst the NHS delivers great care every day, there is a lack of consistency. For example, we know that if someone is diagnosed with a rarer cancer, if they come from an ethnic minority background or live in certain parts of the country they are more likely to have a bad experience. This new buddy scheme will provide exciting opportunities to bring NHS Trusts together, to learn from and support each other. Only by being open and spreading good practice will we reduce the variations in people’s experiences. This is a great first step in providing a way for staff to do this.”